PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Michael Johnson of Birmingham, Ala., made a 20-foot bogey putt on the last hole to post a 4-under-par total (68-72-72 – 212) and a one-shot victory over Jordan Spieth of Dallas and Emiliano Grillo of Bradenton, Fla. Johnson’s wire-to-wire victory came in his first AJGA Invitational and earned him a sponsor’s exemption to the Nationwide Tour’s Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open Presented by Planters, which will be played Oct. 18-24 at TPC Sawgrass – Dye’s Valley Course.
In cooperation with the PGA Tour, the American Junior Golf Association brought 78 players, ages 12-18, from 20 states and 13 foreign countries to The Players Stadium Course for a special junior golf experience. The Junior Players Championship was mirrored after The Players, and the 7,215-yard, par-72 layout matched the set-up used at the PGA Tour event.
All week, Johnson called his rounds a “roller coaster,” and Sunday’s final round didn’t deviate from the norm. He surrendered his lead with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7, and as the final groups made the turn, Johnson was 2-under-par for the tournament and trailed Grillo and Spieth by a shot.
“My caddie told me ‘let’s get on the roller coaster again,’” Johnson said of his mindset as he walked to No. 10.
The ride began on the back nine, as birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 12 enabled him to grab a two-shot lead. Johnson was 5-under-par and held that same two-shot cushion over Grillo and Spieth heading into No. 18, which was the hardest hole of the week (4.72 average). Johnson’s conservative tee shot found the right rough, and a toed 6-iron bounced into the water short and left of the green.
After Johnson’s pitch shot left him 15 feet for bogey, Grillo lipped-out a 60-foot birdie putt that would have put him at 4-under-par.
“I saw Emiliano’s putt and it was a really good read because he almost made it,” Johnson said.
Standing on the same line as Grillo, Johnson calmly knocked in his 15-footer and gave an exasperated fist pump after it found the bottom of the cup, and admitted after the round that he was tired after the whirlwind weekend that he’d endured.
Johnson planned on playing in the AJGA’s Woodward Video Junior at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, but one phone call changed the entire Johnson family’s Labor Day weekend plans.
“It just shows how many good golfers there are in the country that don’t get the chance to play Invitationals,” said Johnson, who gained entry into the event as the sixth alternate.
Cody Proveaux of Leesville, S.C., tied a tournament record with a 6-under-par 66 on Sunday and finished fourth at 2-under-par (75-73-66 – 214). Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., finished fifth at 1-over-par (71-78-68 – 217).